World ORT connects lay leaders with Israeli Minister


13 January 2010 World ORT connects lay leaders with Israeli Minister Israels Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, Yuli Edelstein, has briefed dozens of ORT lay leaders simultaneously around the world thanks to a telephone conference organised by World ORT. British ORT Chairman Simon Alberga chaired the 40-minute briefing in which Mr Edelstein noted ORTs potential as a partner in his ministrys goal to forge strong and mutually beneficial links with Jewish communities around the world. The call yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon, London time, was proof that ORT was a worldwide network, the Minister said. It is very pleasant and important to see World ORT as a partner in our activities, he said, speaking from Jerusalem. The teleconference was the second in a series featuring senior Israel politicians the first was with Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon last year which has been formulated in response to concerns raised at World ORTs Board of Representatives meeting last January about increasing levels of antisemitism. The next briefing by the Geneva-based organisation UN Watch is due to take place in the spring. Listen to the full tele-conference. Israels Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, Yuli Edelstein. The briefings are intended to update World ORTs leadership on the current policies and priorities of the State of Israel and to strengthen the relationship between communities and the Israeli government, said World ORT Director General and CEO Robert Singer. Mr Edelstein, a refusenik who spent three years in a Soviet gulag before being allowed to make aliyah, told listeners that his Ministry was seeking to find the common denominator between public diplomacy and Israel-Diaspora relations based on mutual tasks and challenges. One of the challenges is the really unprecedented attack on Israels right to exist, on everything, basically, that Israel does, he said. I have little doubt that many of these attacks have deep roots in good, old fashioned antisemitism. Unfortunately, you need only replace the word Jew with Israeli and you are politically correct, you are in the right stream. The creation of the Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs by the Netanyahu Government was a sign of the importance placed on Israel-Diaspora relations by the current administration and ORT had the potential to become an important partner in achieving its goals, in particular the identification of the next generation of Diaspora leaders. The events which marked the creation and development of the State of Israel such as the Six-Day War and the refuseniks were ones which stirred Jewish hearts, he said. But for the younger generations who did not live through them these things are not so obvious. We want to find out those things which could bring younger people to Israel. He noted that while many Jewish organisations had become willing to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel in fighting back against the antisemites, ORT had been one of the first to offer such cooperation. But he added that the strategy was not limited to fighting back but also including broadening the frame. Life in Israel is not just about conflict and terrorism; there are plenty of wonderful things happening here and some of them ORT is responsible for, he said. Theres normal life here and this is a normal country. Unfortunately, ordinary citizens [of foreign countries] have such a twisted picture in their minds that it is no less important to bring them the picture of that ordinary life. One way of doing that would be targeting information to groups of media consumers, for example relevant aspects of Israels world-beating medical research to those with cancer. And, using new technology, it aims to increase communication with Jewish communities around the world. ORT has played a pivotal role in this by providing the videoconferencing technology that has enabled a meeting between the Minister and Romes Jews and it is set to do the same with Londons next month. This would allow access to Israeli politicians who might not be able to visit the countries because of the threat of arrest on trumped up charges of war crimes lodged with courts by pro-Palestinian organisation, he said. While Israel was happy that such lawfare was no longer possible in Belgium thanks to a change in that countrys law, Mr Edelstein said the Government was devoting a lot of time to find out how this ridiculous and dangerous situation in other countries could be resolved. A case in point is the United Kingdom where a court recently issued an arrest warrant against Kadima Party Leader Tzipi Livni. The absolutely absurd situation was hurting bilateral relations, Mr Edelstein said. Mr Alberga thanked the Minister for his participation in the teleconference and for answering the questions put to him by listeners. Particularly interesting for me were your comments on the partnership between us and the need to work together to combat antisemitism and anti-Israel activity. I agree that we need to broaden the frame because Israel is a very diverse place and is technologically and culturally rich, he said. Mr Singer said later that the Minister had given a brilliant presentation. He responded to the points which were raised; he didnt try to avoid any problematic questions, he said.